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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

There's much horsing around about Ronaldo

Portuguese star would stand to get as much as $2.5 million per game if Real Madrid plays a series of friendly games, surpassing the fees of $1 million per week that Irish colt Sea The Stars could command as a stud.

November 08, 2009|GRAHAME L. JONES

Having spent a few days watching four-legged creatures running around ovals -- think Breeders' Cup -- it's time to return to two-legged ones running around in circles.

In other words, from horse-racing back to soccer, where brush fires of controversy have flared in all sorts of improbable places.

What follows, then, is a brief tour-de-farce, a look at some of the outrageous and ill-advised things being said and done here, there and, seemingly, everywhere.

Just to tie the two sports together -- racing and soccer, that is -- we begin with Cristiano Ronaldo, who was the subject of a lovely bit of blog writing in England's Guardian while being at the center of a continuing tug-of-war between Portugal and Real Madrid over his ankle injury and availability for the upcoming World Cup playoff series.

It seems the Guardian ran a story on how Irish colt Sea The Stars could earn more than Ronaldo when he (the horse) is put to stud next year -- as much as $1 million per week, in fact. Ronaldo is paid $393,000 per week by Real Madrid.

But another English newspaper, the tabloid Daily Star, then claimed that Ronaldo could earn as much as $2.5 million per game if Real Madrid agrees to play a series of friendly games in the Middle East during the Spanish season's winter break.

"No wonder fans around the world are placing bets on who will ultimately triumph," Harry Pearson noted in the Guardian, "the sleek and glossy stallion with the goofy teeth, or [wait for it, wait for it] the horse."

Pearson also took detailed note of the peculiar method by which racehorses are bred, finally observing:

"To most ordinary folk this will sound very odd indeed. For many footballers, it is an average Saturday night. The racehorse, though, engages in these antics without fear of paternity suits, palimony actions, or tabloid kiss-and-tell stories under the banner, 'The scent of my cheap leather saddle turned him on.' . . . No wonder footballers are instinctively jealous of horses."

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Player power

One of the celebrities in town for the Breeders' Cup was golfer and horse breeder Gary Player, who gave a glowing endorsement for the 2010 World Cup, to be staged in his native South Africa.

"The stadiums they are building are some of the best stadiums in the world," Player said. "The infrastructure is going to be phenomenal. . . . Because of the African music and the stadiums, it's going to be a ripper of a success."

Player, 74, said he is a Manchester United supporter and that he hoped to attend some World Cup games.

"I'm a big soccer fan. It's the biggest sport in the world, isn't it? I love soccer. I captained the first team at school [King Edwards in Johannesburg]. It's a big thing for our country."

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In Beckhamland

Ronaldo might well become the world's next sporting billionaire, after Tiger Woods, but David Beckham's ability to rake in dollars shows no sign of slowing down.

According to figures released in England, the Galaxy midfielder's income from his Footwork Productions company rose 91% in 2008 and earned him $16.5 million from personal sponsorships.

That is on top of the $6.5 million the Galaxy pays Beckham in salary to another of his companies, Brand Beckham, and the income he receives from MLS merchandising ventures and his co-endorsements with his wife, Victoria.

Not bad work if you can get it.

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Handbags and jack

Jack Warner's wife, Maureen, won't be keeping that $380 designer handbag that she received from England's 2018 World Cup bid committee. She would probably like to, but hubby says no.

Warner, president of CONCACAF and a FIFA vice president and executive committee member from Trinidad and Tobago, has returned the gift, claiming it has led to nothing but grief from the media in England and has "resulted in the tainting of her character and mine."

Said Warner: "I have faced and continue to face all kinds of indignities from all manner of persons, but when these insults touch my wife, it represents an all-time low.

"In this regard, therefore, there is only one recourse: a return of this gift, which has become a symbol of derision, betrayal and embarrassment for me and my family."

Now that that's out the way, perhaps Warner can get around to paying the Trinidad and Tobago's players the money they were promised for playing in the 2006 World Cup.

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Age-old dilemma

If Warner were doing his job properly, he and the rest of FIFA's executive committee would be looking into claims that Fortune Chukwudi, captain of Nigeria's team competing in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria is, in fact, 25.

The allegation has been made in a newspaper column by Adokiye Amiesimaka, a former Nigerian international, coach and club chairman and current lawyer, who said Chukwudi had played for him as an 18-year-old seven years ago.

"His football history is common knowledge," Amiesimaka wrote in a national daily, the Punch.

"If we are not utterly irresponsible, how can he be eligible for this tournament when he is not less than 25 years old now?"

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Short passes

Manchester United plays Chelsea today (8 a.m., FSC and FSE) in a game that could have significant bearing on who wins the English Premier League title. Meanwhile United's open-mouth-insert-foot coach, Alex Ferguson, has been doing his bit for Middle East diplomacy. England plays Brazil in a high-profile friendly Saturday in Qatar, which Ferguson scornfully labeled as "some unknown country.". . . . There's nothing quite like getting a ringing endorsement from Franz Beckenbauer, and this is the one that Bayern Munich Coach Louis Van Gaal received last week: "It is not true that we are going to sack Van Gaal. The club will have patience with him until the winter break." Start packing, Louis.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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